The number of people working in a port terminal has fallen to its lowest level in more than 30 years.
The terminal employs around 2,000 people in the region, with around 4,500 employed on full-time basis.
“It’s a significant and worrying trend,” said Saman Chaudhry, head of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), the country’s transport authority.
“What is causing this is that the government is not giving the right jobs and the right skills to the people who are currently in the jobs.”
A number of factors are responsible for the job market, including the low price of oil and the growing number of container vessels.
However, the biggest issue, according to Chauddary, is that there are not enough skilled staff to handle the growing workload.
He added that it is very difficult to find good jobs in the terminal due to the number of containers and the fact that it’s a small port with a small workforce.
The unemployment rate in the port is around 20 percent, according the government’s statistics.
According to the RTA, there are currently around 2.3 million people working at the port, with 2,600 employed on permanent contracts.
“In the past, the population of the terminal was over 10,000, but in 2017 we have about 2.5 million,” Chauddhry said.
“That’s a number that is not only not going to get any better in the future, but it’s not going any higher either.”
The unemployment figure is based on the number employed on temporary contracts, and not on the actual number of workers employed on contract.
However the number on permanent contract does not include the number working in other sectors, such as hotels and restaurants.
According the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the number who work on permanent jobs is around 1.3 percent.
According for the Ministry, the overall unemployment rate is around 7.5 percent.
However since the year 2000, the RMA has seen a sharp rise in the number with a jump from 1.2 percent to 2.8 percent.
This trend has been blamed on a decrease in the value of the rupee and a fall in imports.
The rupee has fallen by nearly 80 percent against the dollar in the past year.
In addition, the cost of living has increased, leading to higher prices.
In 2017, the average cost of food in the ports reached US$2.10 per kilo.
Chaudhwary said the situation has been a bit different in the last few years.
He said there were no more containers in the terminals.
“But that hasn’t changed the fact we still have a problem,” he said.
As of now, there is a shortage of qualified personnel to handle containers.
The RTA has set up a specialised committee to identify and recruit workers for the terminal.
According with the statistics from the Ministry for Labour and Industry, there were 4,664 vacancies for the transport sector in the country in 2017.
“We are looking for people who can do the job and that includes drivers, supervisors, cleaners, security guards, etc,” Choudhry said, adding that the shortage is mainly due to low demand for these workers.
“I think that the current shortage is more due to bad policy,” he added.
A number, including some doctors, are currently waiting for the right visas to enter the country.
The government is also trying to boost the number and salaries of the transport personnel, by creating new positions to fill.
“These positions need to be paid better,” Chudhwary added.
The number and wages of workers in the transport industry is also being affected by the drop in the rupees.
According data from the RWA, the country is currently trading at around USD 3.30 a dollar, down from USD 5.80 in 2017, as the ruoms dropped.
Choudhwary is confident that the situation is not going up in the near future.
“There will always be a shortage,” he noted.
The transport sector, however, is still struggling to meet the increasing demands.
“The economy is very sensitive to the currency exchange rate, and if there is no currency to trade, then the demand for services will be more limited,” Chunkhry added.
[Featured Image by Saman Chakrabarti/Al Jazeera]